Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

2020, book #12: “We have to stop focusing on the minutes, notes, agendas, and rules. We MUST accept that bad meetings start with the attitudes and approaches of the people who lead them.” — Patrick Lencioni

Finished on February 22, 2020

A book that, like many others, was heavily recommended. I thought that I could learn a great deal from a book such as this, especially as I was just a few months into my first truly professional role at this time. I knew that meetings could be run more efficiently and have heard that echoed from so many others. I don’t know if there are many meetings that end with most people involved feeling as though the meeting was relevant, efficient, and impactful.

Initially in the book, there was some background and what hit me was the level of decisiveness. Looking back, I’ve now found that it’s rare for there to be wide buy-in at the initial stages with a true sense of agreement in regards to who is the stakeholder for a project.

The company did a great job of briefly pitching ideas, discussing, and then appointing someone to be responsible for the initial execution.

If you follow the NFL at all… you’ll see that this is particularly important. The franchise QB for the Houston Texans was told by the owner that he would play a role (or at least provide a valued perspective) to the coach and general manager hirings. However, the general manager was named in early January without any input… and they hired someone not even on the initial list… that wouldn’t make me too happy. And honestly, it wouldn’t make you too happy either. Nor would it make any of your employees happy.

Even if you listen to perspectives and then go another way, your key stakeholders deserve some context there.

Do NOT make a widespread decision before seeking the perspectives of all key stakeholders.

This is a tough one. Who is the meeting actually for? That’s one of the toughest questions to answer in my opinion. For example, we generally have a weekly sales and marketing meeting at the company I’m part of in early 2021. We each go around and share what we are focused on. That’s great and all, it’s nice to be informed, truly, but does that need to be a meeting? Most times, no. It’s preference. When general information is shared, the minutes, and brief notes will do. Nonetheless, I track the minutes and corresponding action items and most people are grateful for the brevity of them and the value that they do provide, yet, I’d rather compile a group of emails than strive to type fast enough to keep up with 15 people’s individual comments.

Many meetings must be fundamentally rethought. There will be no technological solutions that free us from sitting down face to face. We have to stop focusing on the minutes, notes, agendas, and rules. We MUST accept that bad meetings start with the attitudes and approaches of the people who lead them.

Again, we have check-in meetings for all the stakeholders within the Amazon account. That’s great, right? Maybe. But often, it lasts 30–45 minutes; and the meeting has 10 people at current. Is that necessary? Maybe. But these meetings should be similar to the weekly tactical — 60 seconds per person. If you ahve other questions to address, or discussions to focus on, save it for a time when only those that are part of that decision-making process are present.

For the daily check-in meetings, they should align department heads. For the weekly tactical, everyone should spend a minute tops to describe their top priorities for the week.

“The meeting after the meeting” should NEVER be present. If your people are leaving meetings uninformed and with clarifying questions that need to be answered, then the meeting was not conducted properly. Agreed? What is the point of spending time in a room together discussing something if you are just going to leave the meeting with more questions than you came in with? That’s ridiculous.

“Sneaker time” the author emphasizes that this is an often-underestimated black hole. It’s easy to overlook the amount of time spent sending clarification emails. There is also a huge ripple throughout departments.

The author did a fantastic job outlining the meetings that should be had. The author wrote this book in such a way that it was engaging, relatable, and insightful. There are not many people who can pack so much content into a fairly short book and maintain a strong sense of organization and structure.

I gave this book a 4/5

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